The Thermochromic Display You Didn’t Know You Needed

We love unique ways of displaying data here at Hackaday, and this ingenious thermochromic display created by [Moritz v. Sivers] more than fits the bill. Using sheets of color changing liquid crystals and careful temperature control of the plates they’re mounted on, he’s built a giant seven-segment display that can colorfully (albeit somewhat slowly) show the current temperature and humidity.

The sheets of temperature sensitive liquid crystals are a bit like flattened out Mood Rings; they starts out black, but as heat is applied, their color cycles through vibrant reds, greens, and blues. The sheets are perhaps best known as the sort of vaguely scientific toys you might see in a museum gift shop, but here [Moritz] has put their unique properties to practical use.

To achieve the effect, he first cut each segment out of copper. The crystal sheets were applied to the segments, thanks to their handy self-stick backing, and the excess was carefully trimmed away. Each segment was then mounted to a TES1-12704 Peltier module by way of thermally conductive epoxy. TB6612FNG motor controllers and a bevy of Arduino Nano’s are used to control the Peltier modules, raising and lowering their temperature as necessary to get the desired effect.

You can see the final result in the video after the break. It’s easily one of the most attractive variations on the classic seven-segment display we’ve ever seen. In fact, we’d go as far as to say it could pass for an art installation. The idea of a device that shows the current temperature by heating itself up certainly has a thoughtful aspect to it.

This actually isn’t the first display we’ve seen that utilized this concept, though it’s by far the largest. Back in 2014 we featured a small flexible display that used nichrome wires to “print” digits on a sheet of liquid crystals.

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Weather Station Can Rock You Like A Hurricane

People love to talk about the weather. It’s the perfect small talk, whether you’re trying to start a conversation or keep one going by avoiding an awkward silence. In the same fashion, weather stations are an ideal starting point for any sort of sensor-related project ideas. You get to familiarizing yourself with communication buses, ADCs, general data acquisition, and you learn a lot in figuring out how to visualize it all.

What if your weather station didn’t visualize anything? [OttoNL] is answering that question with a MIDI-generating Weather Station that uses the mood of the music to convey the condition of the elements outside.

Using an ESP8266 programmed via the Arduino IDE, [OttoNL] hooked up a light dependent resistor, a rain sensor, and the all-round workhorse BME280 for temperature, barometric pressure, and humidity to it. Reading the sensors, the ESP will generate MIDI notes that are sent to a connected synthesizer, with each sensor influencing a different aspect of the generated MIDI signals. A sadder, slow tune will play during rain and a fast upbeat one during sunshine. While it doesn’t use the ESP’s WiFi functionality at all at this point, a future version could easily retrieve some weather forecast data from the internet and add it into the mix as well.

Connect this to your alarm clock, and you can start your day off in the appropriate mood. You can even customize your breakfast toast to really immerse your morning routine in abstract weather cues.

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Friday Hack Chat: Environmental Sensors

When it comes to IoT and robotics, the name of the game is sensors. These aren’t just IMUs and the stuff that makes robots move — we’re talking about environmental sensors here. Everything from sensors that measure temperature, air quality, humidity, chemical sensors, and radiation sensors are on the table here. For this week’s Hack Chat, we’re talking all about environmental sensors with a hardware designer who has put them to the test.

Our guest for this week’s Hack Chat is Radu Motisan. He was a finalist in the 2014 Hackaday Prize with the uRad Monitor, a self-contained radiation monitoring network that sends radiation measurements out to a central server, that can be viewed by the entire world. The goal of this project is to create a worldwide network of radiation monitoring devices, and we’re going to say Radu has succeeded. There are hundreds of these uRad Monitors in over forty countries, and all of them are churning out data about the radiation environment in their neck of the woods.

By training, Radu is a software engineer with a masters in science. In his spare time, Radu plays around with chemistry, physics, and electronics. It’s this background that led Radu to create one of the most amazing Hackaday Prize projects ever.

We’ll kick off with a discussion of Radu’s uRad Monitor, and that means we’ll be covering:

  • Radiation Detection, why is it important, and what does it mean?
  • How do you detect radiation?
  • The differences between Geiger-Mueller tubes and scintillators

You are, of course, encouraged to add your own questions to the discussion. You can do that by leaving a comment on the Environmental Sensor Hack Chat Event Page and we’ll put that in the queue for the Hack Chat discussion.join-hack-chat

Our Hack Chats are live community events on the Hackaday.io Hack Chat group messaging. This week is just like any other, and we’ll be gathering ’round our video terminals at noon, Pacific, on Friday, September 7th. Need a countdown timer? We should look into hosting these countdown timers on hackaday.io, actually.

Click that speech bubble to the right, and you’ll be taken directly to the Hack Chat group on Hackaday.io.

You don’t have to wait until Friday; join whenever you want and you can see what the community is talking about.

Earth Day: Environmental Sensors

Before you attempt to solve a problem, you must first study the problem. If there’s a problem with the environment, you must therefore study the environment at a scale never seen before. For this year’s Hackaday Prize, there are a lot of projects that aim to do just that. Here are a few of them:

[Pure Engineering]’s C12666 Micro Spectrometer has applications ranging from detecting if fruit is ripe, telling you to put sunscreen on, to detecting oil spills. Like the title says, it’s based on the Hamamatsu C12666MA spectrometer, a very tiny MEMS spectrometer that can sort light by wavelength from 340 to 780nm.

The project is to build a proper breakout board for this spectrometer. The best technologies are enabling technologies, and we can’t wait to see all the cool stuff that’s made with this sensor.

[radu.motisan]’s portable environmental monitor isn’t just one sensor, but an entire suite of them. The design of the project includes toxic and flammable gas sensors, radiation detectors, dust sensors, and radiation detectors packaged together in a neat, convenient package.

[radu] has already seen some success with environmental sensors and The Hackaday Prize; last year, his entry, the uRADMonitor placed in the top fifty for creating a global network of radiation sensors.